Last summer, Florida-based Alexander and The Grapes released their debut full length record Hemispheres via New Granada. Its 12-song tracklist offers a deeply personal and reflective vignette of frontman Alexander Charos. Now, nearly 10 months since its release, the band is touring venues across the East Coast, and will be performing alongside Boston’s Pretty & Nice this summer. THE BOMBER JACKET spoke with Charos to get an exclusive look at the band’s progress as they continue the journey on the road and head toward their next release.
TBJ: How has your album been received by audiences since its release last year?
Charos: It’s been good as far as we can tell in our little world. We’re not rock stars or anything but the fact that anyone would pay money for our music is rad. We manage all our online orders for the vinyl ourselves and I’m stoked every time an order comes in. I love going to the post office to mail someone our record. Sometimes I stuff crosswords and candy in the packages. So, to all you gems who bought our record, we say “YEAH!”
You’ve had a lot of time to play the album live. What’s the vibe that comes through when you’re performing on stage? How do they react with your music?
We like to have fun at shows so we usually play the louder stuff, and our live versions of some of the softer songs like “Where I Go” and “Let Go” have evolved into a bigger sound. I think people enjoy that our live sound is a bit different than our record. The more mellow songs on the record have more instrumentation and would require at least one more musician. Our current live set up just guitars, bass, drums which allows us to be a lot more flexible while touring. Thats why our live set is a bit different, and like I said we like to play loud and have fun.
We’ve noticed that there’s been a lot of touring going on–how is that experience turning out?
We love touring, we always have a blast. We’ve also done a lot of traveling for recording and mixing trips that are just as fun. Going on the road and playing music every night with some of my best friends is just amazing. It makes being broke, homeless, and uncomfortable for a whole tour totally worth it. We’ve made some really good friends on tour and a lot of great friendships with other bands. That makes planning your next tour much easier, if you’re like us and you book your own tours. And we always return the favor and book them in St. Pete.
You’ve played a lot of shows in sunny Florida, but you’ve also done a fair share of traveling. At what types of venues have you been playing? Does the dynamic of your sound change and adapt to each venue?
The reason for all the [Florida] shows is because two of our members are full-time students. Philip studies jazz percussion, and Chase is starting grad school for geology. So this year we played a lot of local shows and have been saving up for our tour this summer. The only time we really change our sound is if there are volume constraints, like an in-store or a house show. But most house shows end up getting louder than the club shows.
Any bizarre or interesting tales from the tour?
There was the time where Kevin Spacey was at our show in Annapolis, but that’s about as interesting as that story gets. Last time we played Manhattan we were unable to find a place to crash ahead of time. We played the early slot and the only people there were a friend of mine from high school and middle-aged couple (possibly swingers, more on that shortly). As our set was ending about 60 people walked in which was a huge bummer because this venue paid out depending on who was there for your set. So we were broke with nowhere to sleep in NYC. The couple that watched our set bought some merch and found out we had nowhere to stay. The woman told us she was very wealthy and had a big apartment and that we could stay there if we didn’t mind the sound of she and her boy toy fucking all night. She gave us her number and that was our only option at that point. Unfortunately (or fortunately, we’ll never know), I lost her number. We figured it wasn’t so bad, we’re in New York we’ll stay up and rage and explore the city. A couple of the guys had never seen Times Square so we took the train to go check it out and upon stepping out of the terminal we were greeted by a Florida-style thunderstorm. We then proceeded to take the train in the wrong direction and were unable to get back to our car until 5:30 a.m. A couple of the guys slept on the train. I stayed awake cause there was a scary old lady laughing to herself in the corner. Then we got to our car we drove to some park in Brooklyn and slept in the van. Philip slept on a park bench cause he does not give a fuck. The next night we played in Brooklyn and thankfully a friend of a friend left a key under her mat and we slept in her apartment. We never even got to meet her because she was working. If you’re reading this kind Brooklyn girl, we love you.
Has touring/playing shows yielded inspiration for any new material?
Hearing what other bands are doing in other parts of the country is definitely inspiring. I usually don’t write while on tour, and when I get back I just want to sleep for a week. But anything I hear or see while on the road that I connect with definitely sticks with me. We’re sitting on about 17 new songs right now and are working on fleshing them out into an EP or a full length […] or both. We’ll be playing some of the new songs on tour this summer.
Is there any change, any indication of evolution in the band’s sound with this new set of songs you’re crunching though?
Our new songs definitely represent our live sound a lot more. The majority of the songs are a lot more up beat and a lot brighter as far as lyrical content goes. Hemispheres was written during a time where I was going through a lot of personal struggles and the lyrics are bit darker on that record. The last song “Seeds” kind of resolves all of that and comes to the conclusion that things are going to be good. I feel like the new songs pick up where “Seeds” left off. I’m older now and I’m a lot happier than I was then and the new stuff reflects that. I’m really excited to see how these songs will turn out.
And with AaTG almost 10 months out from the album release, where is the band going as we look forward to the rest of 2013 and beyond?
The rest of this year will be focused on touring. We want to go out west soon. Living in Florida makes hitting the East Coast much easier and affordable, but we want to push ourselves west. We have two songs that didn’t make it on to Hemispheres and we’re planning to release those on limited edition 7” before the year is over. We have a lot of new songs to sort through, and hope to have some new sounds for you by early 2014!